By Angela Vanderbilt
An immediate advantage gained by the digitization of the subway construction negatives is that one can now easily follow the progress being made on the project. From images of the drained canal bed and the earliest scoops of dirt removed to shots of the broad parkway ready to receive pedestrian and automobile traffic, researchers accessing the images will be able to follow each step of the process, much like the crowds of curious onlookers who gathered daily to watch the event in the early 1920s.
Once the collection is made available online, viewers may easily follow the construction process for each section of the proposed route, thanks to the photographer who carefully documented each image by writing the date, time, and location of each photograph directly on the negative itself. Such information is an invaluable historic record of the project, and of the city of Cincinnati, and will be captured in a database to make searching for specific images within the collection that much easier.
The photographer not only followed the path of the proposed route, but also the daily progress being made in specific sites along the entire route, as seen in the series of images below. This group of photographs captures a single area of construction and provides a frame of reference for the magnitude of the project, beginning with a dry canal bed in May, 1920 (image #1) to site excavation on August 13, 1920 (image #2). By September 10, 1920 (image #4) the framing of tunnels was well underway, quickly making progress through October (image #5) and into February, 1921 (image #6) at which point the tunnel was fully enclosed and ready to be covered. On May 5, 1921 (image #8) the ventilation hoods were ready for testing, protruding up to the broad parkway, soon to be covered and then camouflaged with bushes and shrubs as sidewalks were laid and the “Subway Boulevard” was paved to make way for pedestrian and automobile traffic above, as seen in the final image on May 8, 1922.
The images captured during the subway construction provide a glimpse at how dramatically Cincinnati’s urban landscape was altered as the canal bed was replaced with subway tunnels, and over which was to become Cincinnati’s grand Central Parkway.